US-Europe Relations Shift From Trade To Security Issues

RELATIONS between the United States and the European Community are presenting a new set of challenges to policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic. No longer linked primarily to difficult trade issues, ties between the US and the EC are forming around what European Parliament member James Elles calls the other "G's."

"There are three other G's in addition to the GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade]," quips Mr. Elles. "The Gulf, Gorbachev, and Germany, and not necessarily in that order."

The Gulf war underscored US military leadership and the EC's inability to deliver a common defense policy. The EC's 12 member nations "were disparate in their response," Elles says. "The British: there at once; the French: there, just - although their eventual contribution was significant; the Germans: constrained not only by their constitution but by the fact that they're newly unified. Under the circumstances, the EC acted as best it could." (Europe's drive for unity slows. Story, Page 4.)

Iraq's aggression came as East-West tensions were easing and while NATO members were seeking to pare down the organization's military structure. Western defense interests are now reshaped by the Gulf war and ongoing turmoil from the Soviet Union to the Balkans, says Elles. "The search is now on to make our [defense] action more coherent, although this is tempered by the reluctance of countries to yield their sovereignty."

The Bush administration and Congress have been soliciting increased European burden-sharing for Western security interests, but EC unity on strategic cooperation may prove as elusive as on trade reforms. Last November US and EC officials signed the Transatlantic Declaration, the groundwork for the two to eventually share equal responsibilities for a common security policy.

European leaders readily concede that taking on practical and financial tasks for security on and off the continent is long overdue. While the Community's treaty excludes it from dealing with defense, EC President Jacques Delors recently spoke about it for the first time in six years.

Two weeks ago at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies, Mr. Delors charged, "The people of Europe, lulled by material prosperity ... need to be told that democracy and freedom have a price.... Once it became obvious that the [Gulf] situation would have to be resolved by armed combat, the Community had neither the institutional machinery nor the military force which would have allowed it to act as a community. Are the Twelve prepared to learn from this experience?"

His proposal that the Western European Union (WEU), which includes nine of the EC 12, implement a common defense policy, has met resistance from US State Department officials. They are concerned that the WEU - a European body - will operate outside NATO. But Delors defends it as an essential pillar to the Atlantic alliance.

A senior EC official visiting Washington last week did nothing to allay Washington's concerns. "Why WEU?" he asked. "Because the commitment is strongest 201> it's even stronger than the NATO treaty. But for a long time WEU will have to rely on the structure of NATO."

Determining their common interests is essential for Europeans to confirm the continent's "attachment to the Atlantic alliance and its objectives and to shoulder a larger part of the burden.... This is surely what the Americans have always wanted," Delors argues.

Helmut Sonnenfeldt, noted security analyst and guest scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, cautions the US "not to fight this battle" and put Europe's security at risk. Opposing the WEU "arouses US suspicion about European protectionism similar to what the US has strongly felt on the trade front."

US troop levels

US suspicions could lead the congressionally mandated partial reduction of US NATO forces stationed in Europe to a thorough reduction. That would be a mistake, asserts Mr. Sonnenfeldt. The obvious turbulence to the East should check any designs to empty Western Europe of essential US forces, he says.

The senior EC official said questionable Soviet reform "means a strong need for a European defense."

Michael Mandelbaum, director of the East-West Studies Project at the Council on Foreign Relations, says US and EC approaches toward the Soviet Union could soon diverge.

"The EC is likely to be much more sympathetic to Gorbachev, and more willing to go further with him, especially if he pursues tough policies in the Baltics." European assistance will be more forthcoming, he says, notably from Germany. Bonn is thankful for Soviet acceptance of German reunification.

German unity will remain a European concern. "The US was the country with the fewest reservations about German unity," Mr. Mandelbaum says. "Unlike the French, we're not concerned about German economic hegemony, and we're less sensitive to an expanded German military role than the Europeans. Everyone would rather see a remaining American military presence in Europe, rather than an increased German military."

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